Of course, the temptation is understandable, the Dallas Cowboys welcome the Indianapolis Colts to Texas Stadium this week -- the same Colts who boast the National Football League's lone undefeated (9-0) record, who fill up the sports highlight shows with their array of offensive highlights, and who feature arguably the NFL's best wide receiver, in Marvin Harrison, and one of the best passers of all time in Peyton Manning. Adding additional stress to the equation is the fact that the Cowboys have lost Greg Ellis for the year to a blown Achilles' tendon.
Chances are the Cowboys won't get away with sneaking 15 or 20 players
on the field when the Indianapolis offense takes the field. The
likelihood that the officials will allow the Cowboys to blindfold the
Indianapolis offense also is minimal.
So what does Dallas need to do to keep the Colts from running wild?
"We've got to go in with our gameplan and stick with it," linebacker
Akin Ayodele said. "If we're in the game, and it's close, we have to
stay with it, to believe in our schemes."
While Manning's exploits have garnered him everything from weekly
media praise to countless commercials, Ayodele said the Cowboys can
not -- and will not -- allow themselves to be intimidated or get
"It's an excitement more than anything, a challenge," Ayodele said of
facing the Colts' explosive offense. "We're never intimidated. We
have great players, too. We have great respect for them, but nobody
Defensive end Marcus Spears said that while Manning and Harrison --
and to a lesser degree wide receiver Reggie Wayne and tight end
Dallas Clark -- collect all the headlines, it is the the Indianapolis
offensive line that is the most underrated and overlooked element of
the Colts' attack.
"They're not really big," Spears said, "but they're quick -- real
quick. They've played together a long time, so they're very familiar
with where each guy is going to be. Especially their guards --
they're not that big -- but they compensate for that because they
know each other so well. They're a really smart line, really crafty.
"As quick as Peyton can get rid of the ball, those guys don't have to
block too long. They have to give him a chance to get the ball away,
and they do that really well."
For years, Manning was joined in the Indianapolis backfield by
running back Edgerrin James, one of the league's best runners and
receivers out of the backfield. Often overlooked, however, was James'
exceptional blocking ability. Ayodele said James' replacements,
Dominic Rhodes and rookie Joseph Addai, are more than capable blockers.
"Rhodes is a little smaller, and I think he'll cut (block) a little
more, and Addai is more likely to take you on up high," Ayodele said.
"But Bradie (James) has been telling me about (Addai, James' college
teammate at LSU), telling me he's a real strong blocker, real
As if the Manning-to-Harrison connection wasn't enough to worry
about, Ayodele said that as is the case against all offenses,
defensive success against the high-powered Indianapolis attack starts
with the ability to stop the run.
"It always starts there," Ayodele said. "The run is so much harder to
defend. I've been in games where the other team is able to run at
will on you. It almost makes you feel inadequate, it takes away your
aggressive nature. If you can't feel like you can stop the run, it's
hard to feel like you can stop the pass.
"Even against a team that throws like the Colts, you have to stop the
run. If you can't, it really eats at your soul."
Stay the Course
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